(HARRISBURG) – Health care providers, schools, businesses, and others who followed COVID-19 public health directives would be protected from unfair lawsuits for good-faith actions they took during the pandemic under legislation approved by the Senate yesterday, said Senator Ryan Aument (R-36).
House Bill 1737, as amended in the Senate, aims to protect these entities from waves of potential lawsuits that could bankrupt already struggling employers and unfairly harm institutions who did their best to follow the changing and sometimes conflicting guidance provided by state and federal governments.
People and entities covered by the legislation would still be responsible for any intentionally wrongful acts and acts considered “reckless,” and most will also be responsible for any “gross negligence.” (Manufactures of personal protective equipment who donated their products or sold them at cost are protected against “gross negligence” claims.)
Under the legislation, claims of negligence must be demonstrated by “clear and convincing evidence,” rather than “by a preponderance of evidence.”
“I have heard from small business owners, healthcare providers, and school administrators alike that pandemic liability protection is necessary for them to effectively continue operating throughout the second wave of the pandemic and beyond,” said Aument. “I am pleased that this bill appropriately balances that need with the needs of consumers by including necessary exemptions for any recklessness or gross negligence.”
The measure applies to health care providers, PPE manufacturers, schools, universities and childcare providers, as well as business and government service providers.
The legislation does not provide complete immunity for anyone. It simply ensures that if people or entities follow public health directives established by federal or state governments, they will not be held responsible for any harm that allegedly occurred.
House Bill 1737 also provides liability protection to farmers who want to host agritourism events like hayrides, farm tours, and corn mazes. The site must post specific warning signs, and have a signed, written agreement with a participant that they have acknowledged the risk of participating in an agritourism activity.
In his recent Restore, Rebuild, & Reimagine Pennsylvania report, Aument lists pandemic liability protection as one of his top legislative priorities to reforming our healthcare system and providing financial and legal assistance to small businesses and non-profits.
House Bill 1737 as amended was returned to the House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420